Cyberpunk is a science fiction genre that has primary themes of hyper-corporatism, online intrigue, virtual reality and a black market underground with heroes that are often labeled as criminals by their society. All of these elements do not have to be present to classify a creative work as cyberpunk. Sometimes, it’s more about visuals or a feeling than a strict definition. What follows is a listing of the top five cyberpunk movies of all time, in chronological order. I consider these films to be equally good and none deserves to outshine the others.
1. Blade Runner
This is the first major cyberpunk film. There is no described internet or virtual reality. However, the Tyrell corporation is a hyper-corporate entity with a monopoly on the manufacture of highly intelligent androids. Cyberpunk settings are often run-down or even post-apocalyptic, and the setting of ‘Blade Runner’ is a Los Angeles that has decayed into a mass of abandoned buildings with a disrupted utility infrastructure.
A classic example of repressed office cubicle drones getting their revenge on a corporation that has lost all empathy, Tron is a cyberpunk movie for the underdogs. It was the first film to depict virtual reality with a level of detail that immerses the audience within that VR world.
3. The Matrix
This film expands the boundaries of what a cyberpunk film is capable of. In this case, the hyper-corporate organization is not even staffed by humans. It is staffed by artificial intelligences dressed in suits who dominate the virtual world.
4. The Matrix Reloaded
Some people consider this sequel as inferior to the first movie. I disagree. While the script is not perfect, it introduces groundbreaking ideas and characters. Some powerful AI villains are revealed as rebels within the ordered Matrix system, such as the Merovingian and the viral Agent Smith.
Another boundary-breaking film, ‘Inception’ substitutes the dream world for the virtual world and introduces the concept of brain hacking. Cyberpunk is often multicultural in nature, with main characters from different regions and scenes that occur in multiple countries. When Cobb gathers his team members for the main dream construction, he must travel to several countries to get the best people for the job.